Transparency and Openness of the Parliament of Georgia: Achievements and Challenges (2015-2020)
The research by Transparency International Georgia assesses the progress made by the Parliament of Georgia in regard to parliamentary openness and transparency since the signing of the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness to today (reporting period: April 30, 2015 – October 31, 2020).
In spite of the positive steps forward in increasing transparency of the legislature, problems still persist in regard to access to parliamentary information, citizen engagement and openness of parliamentary activities.
In April 2015, the Parliament of Georgia signed the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness and signed a memorandum of cooperation with international and non-governmental organizations. In December 2015, the Open Governance Permanent Parliamentary Council was established by the Order of the Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia to ensure coordinated work around increasing parliamentary transparency. A Consultative Group was formed to provide recommendations and proposals throughout all stages of the process, as well as overseeing the implementation process of the commitments. The Group is composed of representatives of non-governmental and international organizations. To date, the Parliamentary Council and its Consultative Group have developed three action plans.
Since 2015, the transparency and openness of parliamentary information has improved in the following manner:
- The Parliament of Georgia has developed and adopted a Code of Ethics;
- An action plan for people with disabilities was developed and implemented for the parliamentary building in Tbilisi, an adapted version of the Parliament website was created for the blind and visually impaired;
- The standards for the explanatory note to the draft law has been improved;
- The list of proactively published public information has been significantly expanded;
- The website of the Parliament provides changes in the text in a visible format. Audio recordings of the plenary sessions are also published on the website of the Parliament;
In spite of the positive steps forward, civil society representatives and citizens still face a number of barriers in participation as well as access to parliamentary information:
- Citizens’ right to gain entry into the Parliament building, including that of the Members of Parliament, journalists and representatives of non-parliamentary opposition, was restricted more than once during the reporting period;
- Despite the adoption of the Code of Ethics by Parliament, the statute of the Ethics Council is yet to be approved and all of the positions have not been filled. As a result, the Council is unable to receive and deliberate on complaints, essentially leaving the violations of the Code of Ethics unenforced.
- The Parliament frequently does not provide timely and complete responses to FOI requests on parliamentary information sent by non-governmental organizations;
- Despite the adoption of the Code of Ethics by Parliament, the statute of the Ethics Council is yet to be approved and all of the positions have not been filled. It is important for the composition of the Ethics Council to be complete so that the provisions of the Code of Ethics are enforced;
- One of the significant issues of the Code of Ethics is the lack of effective sanction mechanisms. In spite of our recommendation, the Ethics Council addresses the MP only with a note of recommendation, and the decision of the Ethics Council is published on the official website of the Parliament, with a small description of the violation and indicating the names of the offenders;
- The Parliament of Georgia should simplify the procedures for entry into the building of the Parliament. Citizens should be able to gain entry after passing a security check only, without a pass.